The Sermons of Charles Wesley: A Critical Edition with Introduction and Notes
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) is widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of the English hymn. The importance of Charles, however, extends well beyond his undoubted poetic abilities, for he is a figure of central importance in the context of the birth and early growth of Methodism, a movement which today has a worldwide presence. It was Charles and not John who first started the Oxford 'Holy Club' from which the ethos and structures of organised Methodism were eventually to emerge. It was Charles rather than John who first experienced the 'strange warming of the heart' that characterised the experience of many eighteenth-century evangelicals; and in the early years it was Charles no less than John who sought to spread, mainly through his preaching, the evangelical message across England, Wales, and Ireland. Eye witness testimony suggests that Charles was a powerful and effective preacher whose homiletic work and skill did much to establish and further the early Methodist cause. In this book this other side of Charles Wesley is brought clearly into focus through the publication, for the first time, of all of the known Charles Wesley sermon texts. In the four substantial introductory chapters a case is made for the inclusion of the 23 sermons here presented and there is discussion also of the significant text-critical problems that have been negotiated in the production of this volume. Other chapters present a summary of Charles's life and preaching career and seek to show by example how the sermons, no less than the hymns, are significant vehicles for the transmission of Charles's message. This book hence makes a plea for a reassessment of the place of Charles Wesley in English Church history and argues that he deserves to be recognised as more than just 'The Sweet Singer of Methodism'.
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